Top US businessman inspires Bermudian entrepreneurs
It was a sell-out crowd at the Bermuda Small Business Development Corporation’s Second Annual Networking Event, which attracted more than 200 people to the Fairmont Hamilton Princess last Thursday night.
The keynote speaker, Magnus Greaves, founder of 100 Urban Entrepreneurs, a programme that provides start-up financing and mentorship to 100 entrepreneurs in urban US communities, captivated the audience, giving advice and tips by using his own life as an example.
While he grew up in Vancouver, Mr Greaves moved to London when he was 19 to become a futures trader. In 1994, he co-founded MacFutures, an independent electronic trading firm. Looking back, moving away from home was his first lesson in finding business success.
“Sometimes you have to go away from where you are to get ideas,” said Mr Greaves, who was named of one Black Enterprise’s top 40 business people under age 40. “There’s a lot that’s here but there’s more that’s elsewhere. Sometimes you have to physically travel, sometimes you can read a book or go online. The more that you can get out there and taste what’s in different places, the more ideas you are going to get.”
By 2003, Mr Greaves’ company expanded to more than ten offices around the world employing 500 traders. That expansion process is where he learned his second lesson: replicate your idea in markets before everyone else does.
“Once we had the idea, we started going everywhere, trying to take advantage of that idea before other people did,” he said.
Mr Greaves eventually sold his company to then-industry giant Refco and set his sights on “capturing every trader in the world” by creating a magazine publishing company, Doubledown Media. The company published several glossy magazines for the high finance set as well as several websites.
This is where his third lesson kicked in: use technology to open doors of opportunity for new business ventures.
“Technology can take you everywhere from anywhere,” he said. “People need to take advantage of the online platform in terms of marketing, distribution, transactions and figuring out where the demand is for your product or service.”
It hasn’t been all success for Mr Greaves, however. In early 2009, his company Doubledown, filed for bankruptcy protection around the same time as the US financial crisis started to hit a fever pitch.
But amid dark times, comes opportunity. To a publication in Atlanta he said: “I have a theory, you can lose $100 and you can do two things: you can cry about it, which isn’t going to help it come back, or you can take the lessons as to why you lost that $100 and treat that as if you’ve bought yourself an education.”
Soon thereafter, Mr Greaves cofounded 100 Urban Entrepreneurs with American partner Lucas Riggins.
“Our mission is to support first-time and early-stage entrepreneurs that don’t otherwise have access to the funding or the resources,” he explained. “There are so many great ideas that people have that they haven’t been able to turn into businesses.”
The programme has become such a success that it has caught the attention of several media moguls, including Sean “Diddy” Combs, who recently donated $100,000 to the venture.
Earlier this summer, Mr Greaves was invited to the White House’s Urban Entrepreneurship Summit in the US to discuss best practices with urban entrepreneurs from across the country.
According to Mr Greaves, the core components to his programme are: “inspiration, education and opportunity”.
The programme, should a pitch be accepted, provides start-up capital of a $10,000 grant, an eight-week educational course and a mentor to help participants along the way.
While the programme is now just running in the US, Mr Greaves said he is in discussions to possibly bring it to Bermuda. The Island, he says, has a lot of entrepreneurial potential.
“Bermuda may be a small place physically but the brand, the vision that people have when you say ‘Bermuda’ is incredible,” he said. “For the last couple weeks I’ve been telling people I’m coming to Bermuda and they think it’s the most exotic, coolest thing. It made me realise that Bermuda has a great name; it’s a great brand. Anybody who is an entrepreneur from Bermuda has an opportunity to use that brand in their own story.”